Friday, March 18, 2011

Birthright Israel Trip - Part VI, Kotel

This was originally handwritten in Israel on a Birthright trip - Jan. 2011.

On Sunday morning we met the 8 Israeli soldiers who joined us on the rest of our trip. They're all about my age. We asked them a ton of questions about army life. I'm really excited to talk more with them and get to know them. It's great to hear about life in Israel from someone my age.

We explored the Old City in Jerusalem and the Kotel. The Old City is exactly what I imagined Jerusalem would look like. We stayed in the Jewish Quarter although one of the soldiers told me the food was better in the Arab Quarter. I bought a scarf. Of course, I ate falafel.

One surprising thing about Jerusalem is that you can hear Muslims praying from wherever you are in the city several times/day. I always thought of Jerusalem as a Jewish place, but Muslims and Christians also see Jerusalem as a city of religious importance.

The Dome of the Rock is supposedly where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac, and I think where Jacob had the dream with the angels. For Muslims, it's where (Mohammed?) ascended, and I'm not totally sure of the Christian significance.

The Kotel (Western Wall) is the closest a Jew can go to the Dome. The Dome is said to be the holiest place on Earth, so Jews pray at the Wall and leave notes/prayers in it (right).

The wall has a divided section for women/men, and of course the men's side is closer to the Dome. I'm really disheartened by these divisions - I have no interest in being viewed as "second rate" when there are plenty of other activities in which I can participate fully. Why go to a service if you don't count? Seriously, why?

In any case, we went to the Wall, and I wrote a note to put in between the rocks. Watching the ultra-orthodox people women pray was fascinating. They looked like they'd been praying there for hours and brought chairs. I wonder how often they go.

Going to the Wall is a very personal experience, a good time to reflect and think about yourself and if you're happy and what you want and don't want. I wrote my note as a sort of promise to myself since I didn't feel right asking for anything. I'd been carrying it around in a folded wad in my north face pocket all day. After taking some time to think, I squeezed my way through the ultra-orthodox women and wedged my note into a crevice between two rocks.

You have to back away from the Wall in order to be respectful - you can't turn around. Going to the wall was a great and important personal experience - one of the highlights of this trip - very meaningful. I hope I will remember what I wrote in my note for a long time to come; I think I will."

Note to my readers: Please don't ask what I wrote for the Kotel. Thanks. As I expressed in an earlier post, not all personal reflections are meant to share.

On the right is a photo of my at the ruins of the second temple in Jerusalem. We toured the ruins of the destroyed temple before we went to the Kotel. I'm holding a scarf I bought in the Old City. Great day - both fun and important. :)

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